Strokes can happen to children and not recognized

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Pediatric researchers warn that strokes don't just occur among the elderly. Children can have strokes too that can be recurrent unless treated before a second one occurs. Awareness of pediatric strokes and the need for emergency treatment can prevent a second stroke in affected children.

Speaking today at the International Stroke Conference 2010 in San Antonio, Texas, pediatric neurologist Dr. Rebecca Ichord, director of the Pediatric Stroke Program at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia says, "Because a stroke can recur, we need improved awareness of pediatric stroke among primary health care providers, and more research on the best ways to prevent a recurrence after a child suffers a first stroke."

Ischemic stroke in children, that happens when blood flow to the brain is blocked, can occur from undetected heart defects, whiplash injury, and sickle cell disease. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke... "Many physicians still know very little about cerebrovascular disorders in children. This lack of awareness contributes to delayed diagnosis and in the near future will make it more difficult to use thrombolytic agents or other treatments which require early diagnosis and treatment."


Emergency treatment for strokes in children includes administering intravenous fluids, clot busting drugs (thrombolytics), and providing supportive measures. Medication to keep the blood thin, such as aspirin, can prevent recurrent stroke. Ichord say strokes can "also affect children as young as infants."

Ninety children were followed between 2003 and 2009 for the study. A second stroke occurred in thirteen percent of the children, most within a month. Six of the children were undiagnosed the first time.

Symptoms of stroke in children are the same as in adults. Slurred, speech, confusion, sudden weakness on one side, unsteady gait, and vision blurring or loss are symptoms that can signal neurological dysfunction from lack of blood supply to the brain. Infants and children are unable to describe symptoms and might have more subtle neurological changes compared to adults. The findings emphasize the importance of awareness of children who can suffer strokes that can be unrecognized and left untreated until a second one occurs.

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
International Stroke Conference 2010



Parents of infant and childhood stroke survivors can find additional information and support at the Children's Hemiplegia and Stroke Association website.